March 8 is International Women’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, recognize the work that still needs to be done to achieve gender equality at home and around the world, and honour those who are doing that work. Here’s a list of songs that I think capture some of what International Women’s Day means to me.
- Ana Tijoux ft. Shadia Mansour – “Somos Sur”
Todos los callados (todos)
Todos los omitidos (todos)
Todos los invisibles (todos)
Honestly, this is one of my favourite songs ever. I first heard it a few years ago at a performance by students of Pearson College, an international school in Greater Victoria, and I’ve been in love with the ever-fierce French-Chilean artist Ana Tijoux since. This is a song about shared experiences of colonialism and resistance in countries of “the South” around the world, from South America to Palestine. It features the bad-ass Palestinian rapper Shadia Mansour–and while I don’t understand her Arabic lyrics, I think the sentiment of fighting for your homeland is understood. If you like this one, check out Ana Tijoux’s Antipatriarca and Shadia Mansour’s Al Kufiyyeh 3arabeyyeh.
2. Buffy Saint-Marie & Tanya Tagaq – “You Got to Run”
Whether you’re a woman or whether you’re a man
Sometimes you gotta take a stand
Just because you think you can
Oh, you got to run, you got to run
Wow – this song packs a lot of strength from Indigenous women into four minutes. Buffy Sainte-Marie, who was born in a Plains Cree community in Saskatchewan, has had a long career as a musician and activist. Tanya Tagaq is an Inuit throat singer who won the Polaris Prize in 2014. I saw her perform live the following year in Toronto, and it was astonishing. Apparently Buffy Sainte-Marie said this song “wouldn’t be out place in a political setting.” My kind of music.
3. Beyoncé – Formation
Sometimes I go off, I go hard
Get what’s mine, I’m a star
Cause I slay, I slay, I slay
Beyoncé needs no explanation.
4. Sara Bareilles – Brave
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is
When I was in a community choir in Victoria, this was in our set list one season. I would always end up beaming when we sang it because it has such good energy (and then sing it over and over for several days after rehearsals). It also makes me really happy to watch the silly/awesome/bad/hilarious dancing in this video.
5. Yael Naïm – Far Far
Far, far, there’s this little girl
She was praying for something to happen to her
Everyday she writes words and more words
Just to speak out the thoughts that keep floating inside
You may know Yael Naïm’s more famous song, “New Soul,” but I love this one for its unassuming beauty. I suppose the fact that I was once a little girl who prayed for something to happen to her and wrote down all her floating thoughts might be another reason I like this song. Yael Naïm is Israeli and French, and if you like her style, I highly recommend another song by her called (what else?) “Paris“–the throaty sounds of Hebrew are more soothing that you might imagine.
6. Lauryn Hill – Doo-Wop (That Thing)
Girlfriend, let me break it down for you again
You know I only say it cause I’m truly genuine
Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem
Lauryn Hill: glamorous, sultry, a little bit mysterious. In addition to her solo career, she was a member of the Fugees (as in, reFugees) and if this is your kind of music, you probably already know that their cover of “Killing Me Softly” is required listening.
7. Janelle Monáe ft. Eryka Badu– Q.U.E.E.N
I asked a question like this
Are we a lost generation of our people?
Add us to equations but they’ll never make us equal.
She who writes the movie owns the script and the sequel.
So why ain’t the stealing of my rights made illegal?
They keep us underground working hard for the greedy,
But when it’s time pay they turn around and call us needy.
I love this song because a good chunk of the song is like, “Am I weird?” And the implied answer is: maybe, but who the eff cares. “Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.” Janelle Monáe doesn’t fit into your boxes, thank you very much. Plus, in the lyrics above–she’s not asking for rights, she is demanding liberation.
8. Mary Lambert – Secrets
They tell us from the time we’re young
To hide the things that we don’t like about ourselves
I know I’m not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else
Well I’m over it
Maybe best known for her song that’s featured on Macklemore’s “Same Love,” Mary Lambert has a pretty awesome message of self acceptance that she shares widely. This song is no exception. I particularly like the bit where she sings, “I’m so gay / Can’t think straight” from inside a literal closet (that she then jumps out of).
9. Fifth Harmony – BO$$
That’s me, I’m confident
Don’t want yo compliments
Use common sense
I’m on my Michelle Obama
I don’t totally know it means to have “purse so heavy gettin’ Oprah dollars” but I love dancing or running to this song.
10. Alessia Cara – Seventeen
My mother said don’t forget where you come from, where you’ve been
Always keep your closest friends they can’t slip away
They keep you grounded
Oh keep yourself surrounded with good advice
I first heard of Alessia Cara through my brother, an avid listener of CBC Radio 2. Alessia Cara’s songs “Here” and “Outlaws” were frequent tracks on Canadian radio last year (she’s from Brampton!). I like the stages-of-life take on this song in the video and it kind of makes me miss my mom.
There you have it — a playlist to celebrate women of all kinds for International Women’s Day. What songs would you add?
Edit: My friends are awesome and did have song suggestions!
11. MILCK – “Quiet”
You might have heard this song in a viral video of women singing at the Women’s March on Washington in January. Here’s the artist, MILCK, and crew singing it on the show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. To me, this is the quintessential call-to-action song of the Trump era: none of us can keep quiet at a time when it seems like advances in women’s rights and other human rights are under attack. We all must speak up–and loudly.
12. Mona – “Hijibi”
All around the world, love women every shade and
All around the world, love women every shade and
Power run deep, even if you hatin’
This song is one of my new favourites. Hijabis showing off awesome dance moves to a sick beat while busting stereotypes–what’s not to love?
13. Alicia Keys – “Superwoman”
An oversight that this original list did not include the goddess Alicia Keys.
14. Eurhythmics – “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves”
A “gem of a woman power song,” according to my friend Felicia, who is just a gem of woman power herself.